Sheffield Steelers' Jonathan Phillips retains '˜C' for GB's Olympic qualifiers

JONATHAN PHILLIPS will mark his 70th cap for Great Britain as the team's captain when facing the Netherlands in their first Olympic pre-qualifier in Italy on Friday.

Sheffield Steelers and GB captain, Jonathan Phillips, centre, flanked by mark Richardson, left, and David Clarke, right.

The GB team need to finish top of their group, which also comprises Serbia and Italy, in order to leave themselves just one step away from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Head coach Russell’s squad have spent the last two days at a training camp in Coventry ahead of flying out to Cortina on Wednesday morning.

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Sheffield Steelers winger Phillips, who also captains the defending Elite League champions, has been GB captain since 2011, but said it remained a great honour to be chosen once again.

“We have a great set of guys as usual and to be honest, we have a room of leaders and so many experienced guys,” said Phillips, who is joined in the national squad by Steelers’ defenceman, Ben O’Connor.

Their team-mate Robert Dowd was among the original squad but had to withdraw through injury and was replaced by former Steelers forward, Ashley Tait.

“It is always a massive honour to captain your country but I think, with an Olympic tournament, it is that extra bit special.

Nottingham Panthers’ forward David Clarke and Cardiff Devils’ defenceman Mark Richardson have been chosen by Russell as alternate captains.

“We have a great captaincy team and they all know the responsibility the role will entail,” said Russell.

“They are popular guys and very respected guys - and that is very important.”

GB should get the better of their opening opponents – they have won the last two competitive meetings between the two sides – as well as Serbia 24 hours later.

The real test is expected to come on Sunday against hosts Italy, the pre-tournament favourites currently ranked 18th in the world – six places above Britain, with the Netherlands a further place back.

Serbia are ranked 30th.

Hull-born pair Matty Davies and David Phillips – currently playing for Manchester Storm – and Cardiff Devils’ Rotherham-born goalie Ben Bowns, are also on the trip.

GB fixtures

Thursday 11th February: GB v Netherlands - 4:30pm UK time (5:30pm local time)

Saturday 13th February: GB v Serbia - 4:30pm UK time (5:30pm local time)

Sunday 14th February: GB v Italy - 7:45pm UK time (8:45pm local time)

GB Squad – Netminders: Bowns (Cardiff Devils), Lyle (Swindon Wildcats).

Defencemen: Batch (Cardiff), Lee (Nottingham Panthers), O’Connor (Sheffield Steelers), D Phillips (Manchester Storm), Richardson (Cardiff), Swindlehurst (Nottingham), Oakford (Nottingham).

Forwards: Boxill (Belfast), Clarke (Nottingham), B Davies (Braehead), M Davies (Manchester), Garside (Belfast), Lachowicz (Nottingham), Myers (Nottingham), Peacock (Belfast), J Phillips (Sheffield), Shields (Belfast), Venus (Cventry)